My green card expired yesterday. Today I received notice that the USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Service; the renamed INS) received my I-751 form.
When you get a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen it's only good for two years and you are classed as a Conditional Permanent Resident Alien. Apparently at some point in the last 10 years someone thought one of the big immigration problems in the U.S. was illegal aliens marrying American citizens to get into the country. So, to stop this sort of thing — since it's not like you can build a fence around single U.S. citizens in contact with foreigners — once a green card is granted due to marriage it is good for only two years. Before those two years are up, but no earlier than 90 days before they are up, you have to apply to get the conditions taken off.
This process requires an I-751 form, proof that you are still married (there are ways of removing the conditions if you are divorced or separated, which makes me wonder why they go to the bother of putting conditions on the green card in the first place), and, oh yeah, a cheque for $205. Hmm... I think I figured out the whole point of this "conditional permanent resident alien thing".
The last time we checked, we guessed that we've spent around $1500 getting me the green card. One of these days I'll go through the whole process, if anyone is interested...
The tough part (other than coming up with the money!) was proving we were still married. The guidelines that come with the form are pretty vague as to what they want to see as proof. They give some ideas but don't tell you what they need as a minimum. When I called the USCIS hotline I was told that "more was better".
(It's a good thing I called earlier this month. About six months I called to ask them where to send the application as the USCIS office in New Orleans was closed. They told me to send it to Memphis. This time they told me to send it to Mesquite, Texas. Apparently Mesquite was the correct answer...)
One of the suggested pieces of evidence is an affadavit from two people swearing that you are still living together. This was somewhat problematic as we don't have a lot of local friends, but Kristi and Beth, who work with Alana, vouched for us. (Kristi was at our wedding.) We sent photocopies of our vehicle registrations, photocopies of our bank statement, and photocopies of utility bills. Alana copied our medical insurance card, and printed off something from work showing that I was the beneficiary of her work-related life insurance. We also sent a smattering of photographs. This, too, was problematic since Alana and I hate having our pictures taken. I think we had one photo with both of us in it, and three pairs of photos where one of the pair was me with Logan and the other was Alana with Logan obviously in the same place.
It's not just the weirdness of having to prove you are still married, but the fact that you don't know just how much evidence will be enough!
At any rate, they accepted the package I sent and cashed the cheque. The official form they sent back told me that my green card has been extended for one year. My petition to have the conditions removed will take a minimum of 120 days to process, though they kindly tell me to feel free to contact them if they haven't processed the petition within six months.
I'm not sure what the next step is. I had to go to an interview for the green card in the first place. I may have to go for another interview. Assuming that the conditions are removed, the green card is good for 10 years or the point I become a U.S. citizen... if I become a citizen (and that's a whole other story).
Mrs. Bear Is Making Progress
8 months ago